the university of iowa board of regents’ contempt

The Board of Regents of the University of Iowa has hired a new president. The process appears to have been less than transparent, and resulted in the one wholly unqualified candidate in the field emerging victorious. This has resulted in the faculty at UI taking a vote of no confidence in the Board. It’s little more than a symbolic gesture in the University of Tomorrowland, where notions of shared governance and the critical educational mission of the university no longer exist.

The President of the Board of Regents released this statement in response to the faculty’s vote. Interestingly, I found the original version that the BoR wrote before sending it through the PR washing machine, which I reproduce for you here in full.


Contact: Josh Lameman


Statement from Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter on University of Iowa Faculty Senate Vote of No Confidence

We are changing landscape of higher education so as to make the current ways of operating unsustainable. The Board of Regents brought three highly qualified candidates and one ringer to campus during the search process and humored them by feigning a discussion their abilities to help lead the University of Iowa through the changes that we are foisting upon higher education.

Throughout this process, Board members heard repeatedly from non-university monied and political interests from a small segment Iowan society about the type of ‘university’ they want, and the ways they can use it to transfer public goods into private hands.

After listening to the governor, his friends, and many other non-academic interests, as well as having frank conversations with each of the candidates about their willingness to implement our transformative vision of higher ed disruption, the Board unanimously thought Bruce Harreld’s experience running a fast food chicken chain twenty years ago, and his vision and willingness to disregard faculty and staff still involved in actual teaching and research, would ultimately provide the destructive disruption we know they need.

We are pissed that faculty have decided to their follow their commitment to maintaining the public good that the University of Iowa has long been over opportunities to endorse their own dismantling, as well as the end of that institution they love, and to focus their efforts on stopping us instead of accepting our unquestionable authority to fuck them over like a pig on a one way trip to Sioux City.

So there you have it.  I’d say it’s a good thing they have editors working hard to soften the edges of Board of Regents’ press releases.

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a gitit front end for multiple research repositories

I switched a long time ago now to keeping all of my research, course notes, general reading notes, brainstorming notes, etc. in plain text files. I write them using the pandoc variant of markdown. And, I use Mercurial or Git to keep the repositories synced to Bitbucket. These are private repositories, but following on Caleb McDaniel’s open history experiement, I’ve been experimenting with using Gitit locally as a front end for one of my projects. It is based on pandoc, and essentially provides a wiki interface to a set of text files that are written in pandoc.

The most recent release of Gitit allows users to specify the default filetype of pages to be converted in the wiki. Originally, this was set to .page. This was fine for a new project, but I had tons of older repositories with lots of .txt files I didn’t want to change. So, I was excited to get the ability to specify the file type, which means I can use the front end on pre-existing projects filled with many folders and files.

What is more, I can use Gitit’s configuration file to simply spin up a wiki on any of my repos whenever I need or want the kind of search and display features that a wiki provides. I now have a folder named projects that includes all of my various research, teaching, and brainstorming repositories. Each of those repositories is source controlled with Git of Mercurial, and synced using source control to a repo on bitbucket:


and so forth.

In the conf folder, I have all the files needed for Gitit, including configuration files for each of the repos:


Using the configuration files, I can point Gitit to one set of static files and templates, one log file, and the appropriate repository of files for whatever I’m looking for. To do that, I change the default configuration file to search for the project folder, instead of the default wikidata folder Gitit usually uses. Then, at any point when I need to search for things have a different front end that the terminal window, I’ll spin up a wiki from the Projects folder with this command:

gitit -f conf/repoName.conf

I like this very much, because I’m not tied to Gitit’s default folder or filetype structure, I can work in my repositories the way I’m accustomed to, and still get the benefit of a wiki whenever I want it. Easy to do. Works like a charm.

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the meaning of de-tenure is typo

The University of Tennessee System has retracted the term “de-tenure” from the press release describing President DiPietro’s plan for cost cutting and revenue enhancement. The amended press release now begins with the following:

NOTE: A correction has been made to this press release regarding the review of the University’s tenure and post-tenure review process by deleting the inadvertent and incorrect reference to “de-tenure” under the sixth bullet of the president’s action plan noted below.

The new language in the sixth bullet point is:

Tenure and post-tenure review process: The UT System Administration, with involvement by the Faculty Council, will conduct a comprehensive review of the University’s established tenure and post-tenure review process.

While I think this retraction is a small victory, it strains credulity that a press release describing the plan presented to, and approved by the Board of Trustees would include such a toxic and alarming term as “de-tenure” by mistake. As a typo. I believe that the individuals who wrote, read, and approved the original language for release were transcribing the intent of the proposal to review P&T procedures at UT.

The System has had a procedure for post-tenure review, and even removal, since 2003. Cumulative Performance Review (CPR) is currently triggered after two consecutive years in the preceding five of an overall rating of 1 on a scale of 1-5 in the Annual Review process. Or, CPR can be triggered with three years in the preceding five of a combination rating of 1s or 2s. This is followed by a process of review by a specially-appointed committee of a faculty member’s performance.

Chancellor Cheek and DiPietro describe this process as ponderous or confusing or some such, and say that it is in need of change. And, this is brought up in the context of a plan for cost cutting. I see de-tenuring and firing-with-tenure as a distinction without a difference.

The larger context for the connection between the budget and seeking a path to dismissing tenured professors is Tennessee’s turn towards “Outcome Based Budgeting” which ties remittances to the University by the state to performance measures. This kind of fiscal discipline really has no place in public universities, who exist as a service to the citizens of the state. I can say with full confidence that the University of Tennessee Knoxville is more productive than it’s ever been by all kinds of rational measures. Our faculty are much more productive in research than in generations past. We graduate more students as a university, and have bigger incoming classes than ever before. We do so with demonstrably fewer resources. In fact, the College of Arts and Sciences would need close to 40 lines to get us back to the same level of FTE positions as we had in the mid-1990s. Additionally, quality education is an inherently inefficient process by the measures of capital. We give our most advanced and valued students (grad students) courses in a format that is most efficient at teaching them the values, methods, and content of historical practice. We do that in small seminars, not because they measure well on institutional efficiency, but because the seminar room in the most efficient means of teaching deep thinking, research, analysis, and the like.

This talk of productivity shows that the failed business model under operation here is the model of treating university education like a business. Neither Cheek nor DiPietro agree.

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Chad Black

I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.